Universities must be accountable Labor says plus Monash won’t use the M word

Cross faculty lingua franca

CMM’s source in the University of Queensland Circumlocution Office reports great progress on the Enhancing Services and Systems Programme. “The UQ Process Architecture, focuses on defining administrative activities across UQ, and equips UQ with a baseline for improving and standardising processes. It also provides staff and students with a solid building block of consistent terminology and definitions for activities that are occurring across multiple organisational units.” What, like “morning tea” and “department meeting”?

ANU June 3

Carr returns fire

Kim Carr says Labor will announce its higher education policy “soon” but the higher education spokesman makes it clear that the party expects universities to “respond to local conditions and national priorities.” Senator Carr responded yesterday to continuing concerns that he is intent on reimposing the policy of compacts, which existed under the last Labor government, and is still law. Vice chancellors, notably Greg Craven from the Australian Catholic University, oppose the idea of government funding being tied to performance objectives but yesterday Senator Carr told CMM, “the government is spending $14bn in public money, it is unacceptable for universities not to be accountable. … We will make sure universities respond to local conditions and national priorities.”

“Under Labor there was massive expansion in the system but we need to lift performances on completions and quality and need to be more attentive to participation and equity. The statistical evidence is clear, we got to a 40 per cent participation rate ten years ahead of schedule but reaching 20 per cent enrolments for students from low SES backgrounds is not happening quickly enough,” he added.

Senator Carr also nominated disciplines, such as physics where it is difficult to attract students and referred to the shortage of science graduates moving into teaching, contrasting this with enrolments in “low opportunity courses”.

While Senator Carr said Labor opposed deregulation and the government’s proposed funding cut, “people have a right to demand accountability from public institutions – that is the terms of engagement on revenue.”

CMM suspects that this is an argument that will appeal to everybody who dislikes the idea of a market in education, which right now is probably a majority of voters. 

All please

Greens education spokesman Lee Rhiannon says the Group of Eight wants to restrict research funding to a “select few” and this is not on. “The Group of Eight have diagnosed the problem correctly – scarce government funding – but have come up with the wrong cure.
Rather than unfairly limiting access students in regional areas will have for research opportunities, the Group of Eight should join with the Greens in advocating for increased higher education and research funding,” she says. Spot the flaw in the senator’s suggestion – no matter how much funding increased the Eight will never want to share.

Giving girls a go

Julia Gillard addressed a capacity crowd at the University of Adelaide yesterday on the practical benefit and moral obligation to educate the world’s children, especially girls in the developing world, and what failing them means. “We violate their human rights, we deny our world its best possible future because educating girls is so transformative. Girls education is vital for not only for their own empowerment but for the broader wellbeing of their families and nations,” Ms Gillard said.

Counting casuals

The ever-energetic Josh Cullinan played a major role in the National Tertiary Education Union’s three-year dispute with Swinburne University over a campus closure and employment conditions. With an armistice there Mr Cullinan is looking east, towards Monash, where he says the union has evidence of “casual academic staff being required to perform many, many hours of unpaid academic work.” The union is especially worried by the absence of marking guidelines and has launched a dispute with the university over claimed breaches of the enterprise agreement, which Mr Cullinan says will be resolved by consultation “based upon robust, accurate and informed analysis of reasonable expectations about the number of hours to be allowed for marking based on the complexity of the marking and allowing for variations in level of experience of the marker.”

“We hope it will help set a fairer base, and lawfully describe that all staff employed on a casual basis are entitled to be paid for the actual time worked,” he says.

The union is asking casual staff to complete a survey to inform negotiations.

Worth the wait

The Senate Education and Employment References Committee report on private voced and training providers, due next Monday is delayed. It is now set for October 14. Standby for a deplore-a-thon.


Joint venture

Chris Pyne’s shakeup of teacher education is having an impact, with smart providers creating new courses that demonstrate commitment to quality especially in the maths and science space. Yesterday the Australian National University and neighbouring University of Canberra announced a joint programme. Students who complete a bachelor of science at ANU will be able to move on to a teaching masters at UoC. The combined course will shave six months off the length of the two degrees separately.

How you going, all-right?

Thursday is RU OK Day, when we are supposed to ask people in our lives how they are travelling through this vale of tears. At Flinders it will give US ambassador John Berryman, (he is there is to talk about health technology innovation), a chance to ask how everybody in Adelaide is getting on. But being a well-briefed ambassador he probably won’t. The state of the SA economy does not encourage ok-ness.

No Clayton corollary to Melbourne model

The M word is being murmured at Monash U, that’s M as in Uni Melbourne and M as in model. One of CMM’s Clayton correspondents suggests that course cuts in arts and IT signal a consolidation of undergraduate education, as occurs at U of M, where students study professional specialisations at masters level.

“Nonsense on stilts” management replied. Monash University has no intention of moving to a ‘Melbourne Model.’ Instead, we believe that it serves students best to have a choice and that’s what we offer. Yes, there are three-year comprehensive degrees in arts, science, business, commerce and IT but they all include one/two majors and have existed for many years.” There are also five-year degrees across a wide range of disciplines, including the B Eng, which includes ten specialisations.

Independent sources at Monash confirmed this, saying specialist degrees that are going are no loss (linguistics was one example quoted) because students will still do a major in the discipline in a general arts degree, which is what they mainly do now.

Active ASQA

The Australian Skills Quality Authority appears irritated by hacks (who CMM?) suggesting that it is not doing much of a job in protecting VET students from colleges providing low, or no, quality courses. Yesterday CEO Chris Robinson released performance stats for the last financial year showing ASQA conducted 1400 “audit activities” and variously cancelled, suspended, rejected or otherwise sanctioned 300 training providers in whole or part. Good-oh, but as the Senate committee inquiring into private providers showed last week, news of crook courses keeps coming.

Among friends

The training establishment gathers in Hobart tomorrow for the TAFE Directors Association conference. Speakers include Training Minister Simon Birmingham and his shadow Sharon Bird, Kate Carnell from ACCI, Victorian training reviewer Bruce Mackenzie and the endlessly energetic Chief Scientist Ian Chubb. Perhaps TAFE’s greatest friend among the nest of media vipers, The Australian’s John Ross will also speak.

criterion update

Archipelago of opportunity

CMM suggested yesterday that the for-profit training sector makes the running on developing a market in Indonesia but TAFE can prove him wrong. TAFEs are invited to join Trade Minister Andrew Robb on a mission there, November 17-20. The Indonesians are interested in Certificate II through IV content in areas including, agriculture, healthcare and seniors’ services.